The sub-heading for this book reads ‘Christian Aid Around the World’. But the would-be reader can rest assured, this is not in any sense a detailed chronologue of organisational projects. ‘Up With People’ sums it up beautifully.
The author elevates people rather than organisations. He looks at lives rather than statistics; in doing so he puts his finger on the most effective way of educating people in the Western world about the realities of development.
To write the book the author, an award-winning journalist visited eight countries in seven months. Most of the chapters revolve around the story of an individual. In Kenya he tells the story of Margaret Mumbua, a young woman struggling to bring up four children in a Nairobi slum. In the Sudan there is Ezekiel Kamari, a foreman welder in a boatyard. In Tunisia, we meet Saad ben Tarschoun who farms a dirt patch in the country’s interior. In Korea there is Rev. Park Hyung Kyu, a church worker striving to promote the rights of the oppressed.
Having involved the reader in a deeply pelsonalised story about the individual struggle, the author then goes on to consider how an aid project has helped or otherwise. He makes no attempt to gloss over the limitations of aid. In some cases he feels that people might have been better off without it. There are differing views for example, of whether the aid sent to Guatemala after the 1977 earthquake helped or not.
He finds general agreement amongst recipients that aid is useful if it genuinely helps to create the conditions in which people can make their own decisions about control of their lives.
In all the stories there is a glimpse of the stark injustice which pervades people’s lives. A peasant who lost two children in the Guatemalan earthquake is in no doubt what killed them. "It was the rich of this country who killed my children. It was the rich who will not allow the poor men enough to build a decent house to protect their families from an earthquake."
Mr McCreary helps the reader to see that although a hand in the pocket is needed, it is not enough. ‘Those who give from the heart,’ says the author, ‘have a responsibility also to exercise their minds’.